“ Broadclyst / Exeter / Devon / EX5 3LE / Tel: 01392 881345. „
Killerton House is an 18th century National Trust owned house and estate of 6400 acres in Broadclyst, a village just outside Exeter in Devon.
The house was the ancestral home of the Acland family and the estate includes working farms and 240 cottages currently leased out by the trust and painted in a distinctive yellow, so it is very easy to distinguish which ones they are.
The estate also includes 4000 acres of woodland and an 18 acre garden adjoining the house with winding paths climbing the hillside. It is a lovely place to visit for a walk, picnic and general mooch about with the family at the weekend. Its worth visiting at different times of the year because the garden really does change throughout the seasons, the bulbs are beautiful in the spring and the trees in the autumn time. The gardens are still open in the winter when the house itself is closed.
The trust also runs children's activities throughout the year in the gardens - my son particularly enjoyed the Easter egg hunt but there are also many to chose from during the summer holidays as well.
The garden contains many unusual trees and plants some of which were initially introduced into Britain via here, and only a small section is formal most of it is wild which I think makes it more attractive to family visitors as you aren't forever trying to keep kids off the grass. There is a Victorian ice house, rock garden and the "Bears hut" which was built as a summerhouse that supposedly originally held a pet bear (!).
At the top of the hill is the remains of an iron age fort which we have yet to visit.
Rebuilt in 1778 to the design of John Johnson and given to the National trust in 1942 it has been furnished in the style of a family home.
Killerton is famous for its 18th to 20th century costume collection which they periodically change. I remember in particular seeing a dress of Queen Victoria's and being shocked at how short and wide she must have been. The headless mannequins are also quite eerie displayed in some of the darker rooms. The Victorian laundry is interesting to see and gives an insight into the lives of those below stairs. There are usually knowledgeable volunteers on hand in the building to answer any queries you may have about the displays or the house itself.
Admission pricing and visitor facilities
The discovery centre is Based in the stable block sometimes runs children's activities and there is a gift shop and plant centre here also - neither of which I can comment on as I haven't used them yet. The Orchard Tea Room is within the stable courtyard with seating inside and out and serves reasonably priced drinks and snacks. The main restaurant serves more substantial meals and is within the main house itself.
Motorized buggies may be hired by those unable to walk the gardens steep paths.
House and garden admission adult £7.25
Family £ 17.95
1 adult family £11.10
Garden and park only adult £5.35
I enjoyed visiting this National Trust House and Estate, with my hubby, last September. Killerton is in East Devon, 6 miles from Exeter, close to the M5. The bus service 1B from Exeter stops ¾ mile away from the entrance.
We got a feel of what was to come as we entered through the stable courtyard and looked at the exhibition there, which gave a good introduction to the estate. Also here is a tea-room and toilets.
One of the first things that my hubby noticed was the cannons at both entrances to the house. "I suppose that's one way of discouraging unwanted visitors," he commented.
Visitors to the house are first directed around the downstairs, which is set out as it would have been in the 18th century, when it was the family home of the Acland family.
A guide book is available for £4, but I didn't buy one, as experience of National Trust properties has taught me that information provided in the rooms and/or by volunteer guides is often enough to satisfy my level of interest, as it was on this occasion. I believe that most visitors who, unlike me, want to know lots of details, or who want a souvenir, will think it worth buying.
In the dining room, maybe to prepare visitors for the upstairs exhibition, the room guide says that ladies were expected to wear evening dress to dinner, which meant bare arms, whatever the time of year. In winter, this meant that the most sort after position was near the fire.
At this house, as well as the room guides, there were additional printed articles telling interesting stories of what some of the paintings are about. One painting that particularly took my attention depicted one of the ladies of the house in a boat waving a white flag. This was a wife who followed her husband to the American War of Independence, and after he was taken sick and captured, asked if she could nurse him in prison. This unusual request was agreed to, and eventually both husband and wife were sent back to England, after each side exchanged prisoners.
After viewing downstairs, there is the extensive Paulise de Bush costume collection to see for those able to climb the stairs. (My cheeky hubby commented that I won't want to wear anything as extravagant as these customs, as I would be too nervous to eat dinner in such a posh dress, because the finer the frock, the more likely I would be to spill gravy on it!)
Attached to the house is a restaurant that serves full meals at lunchtime, and light refreshment for the rest of the afternoon. (Catering for special functions, including wedding receptions, can be booked.) We brought our own picnic, which we ate in the designated area near the car park.
Also accessed from the outside of the house are a Victorian laundry, and some toilets. There are more toilets at the entrance to the gardens.
As usual with these sorts of places, I enjoyed the gardens best, as that is where my main interest lies. The estate of formal gardens, parkland and farmland is quite hilly.
I enjoyed seeing the mixture of native and exotic plants in both the gardens and the parkland. Typically English roses were growing near cacti, and growing near our own native trees, were bamboo and palms.
As well as natural beauty, there is an ice-house and Bear's Hut rustic summer house to find.
The chapel is up one of the steepest hills in the park. In some other fine National Trust owned houses that I have visited, the chapel has been contained in the main building, so Killerton's layout meant more of an effort had to be made for its owners to attend services. After I got the top of the hill, I enjoyed a rest in the chapel, where my mouth watered at the harvest festival display.
We also appreciated having a rest from exploring the hilly estate, and seating on conveniently located benches around the park, resting while looking out over some impressive views.
There were buggies available, when I visited, driven by National Trust Volunteers, to give disabled people the opportunity to see more of the estate than they would otherwise be able to. There was no special charge for this service, but donations towards costs were appreciated. When one of the buggies stopped near a giant redwood tree that I was admiring, I heard the volunteer telling his passengers about its history, which was well appreciated. If this buggy service is essential to your enjoyment of the visit, I suggest that you phone to check that it will be available on the day of your visit. Do remember that most of the staff dealing with the public are unpaid volunteers. Their commitment helps makes the National Trust as successful as it is.
On the way out visitors have the opportunity to look round the gift shop, and the plant sales area, where some of the varieties of plants found on the estate can be brought.
I spent a pleasant 2½ hours here, mostly in the gardens. Those who would appreciate the house as much as the garden, would no doubt, want to allow more time than me. As with all good gardens, there are different things to appreciate as the seasons change, so I hope to come back again in the spring or early summer.
The energetic will appreciate the circular walks, which give access to the estate. Do ask a volunteer helper for a leaflet, if these are of interest to you.
Although I would recommend a visit here, I am dropping one star because there is an even better estate near here, called Knighthayes, which I recommend even more strongly.
I am a member of the National Trust primarily because I enjoy the gardens, parkland and other more remote places of natural beauty that they try to look after for generations to come, but to a lesser extent I also enjoy visiting their historical houses.
Prices (updated 7 May 2009)
Being a National Trust Member I just showed my annual ticket to get in.
The Trust hope tax paying visitors will add 10% to the prices below, so that they can claim even more back from the Government through the Gift Aid Scheme.
For those that aren't members, the entrance fee to the garden and park is £5.35, or the house and garden combined £7.25.
The gardens and park are open all the year, but the house doesn't usually open in the winter. As with all National Trust properties prices and times are subject to revision, which is usually done over the winter months, so I advise you check with their web site when planning a visit.
National Trust opening hours for their most visited buildings are usually approximately 11 am to 5 pm, as was the case for this one, when we visited.
There are other smaller National Trust properties nearby, which some visitors might like to see on the same day, but again I advise you check the opening times before your visit, as smaller properties usually have quite restricted opening, even in summer. For the season that has just finished, nearby Budlake Old Post Office Room and Garden, Cliston Mill, and Marker's Cottage were all open on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
The other National Trust major attraction in the area is Knightshayes Court, which I visited on a different day. I enjoyed both of these grand houses and their estates.
Killerton was good but I think nearby Knightshayes Court was even better, both the house and the estate, and as they were the same price, I think that I should give Killerton 4 out of 5 stars. (I hope to find time to review my visit to the even more impressive Knightshayes property for you later.)
Cick on the map at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace.htm to find a National Trust place near you to visit.
For Killerton, click on the south west of England, and then look under the Devon heading.
I hope you too enjoy visiting this, or other National Trust properties.
Fine 18th-century house with costume collection, hillside garden and estate.